The Jordanian monarch said in an interview published Tuesday that elections in Iraq are impossible in the current chaos and that he sees no chances of improvement in the short term.
King Abdullah II (search), who was paying a brief visit to France, told the daily Le Figaro that, in his view, it is the extremists who would gain the upper hand in the current conditions in Iraq.
"It seems impossible to organize indisputable elections in the chaos of Iraq today," he was quoted as saying.
"The situation is very, very difficult and in the immediate I don't see any chance of improvement."
Abdullah said that extremists were currently the best organized faction in divided Iraq and if elections were held in the current disorder, "the results will reflect this advantage of the extremists."
Abdullah noted that Jordan supports Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (search) who wants the elections to take place as scheduled in January. However, the king was clear about his misgivings.
Reestablishing security is the biggest challenge facing Allawi, Abdullah said, adding that Jordan's position on this issue is clear: speed up the return of the former Iraqi army — not the generals but the middle-ranking chiefs and officers "who alone have the numbers and the capacity to reestablish order."
"The biggest mistake of the Americans was to dissolve the security forces and to purge the administrations of hundreds of thousands of members of the Baath party," the main political force under Saddam Hussein, Abdullah said.
Abdullah was meeting with President Jacques Chirac before heading to Italy. He was certain to discuss the situation in Iraq as well as that of two French hostages held there.
Jordan has played an active role in trying to secure the release of the hostages, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot. They disappeared Aug. 20 along with their Syrian driver, Mohamed al-Joundi, while traveling to the southern Iraqi city of Najaf.
Militants calling themselves the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed responsibility, demanding that France revoke a new law banning Islamic head scarves from state schools.
Abdullah said in Le Figaro that Jordan's intelligence services were still working for the hostages' release.